Actually, our church looks a lot like the book of Acts.

Donald Miller, whose writing I enjoy, had a  disappointing article a couple of weeks ago on why he doesn’t go to church very often. Plenty of people have offered critiques on the piece as a whole, so I won’t do that, except to observe that most members of my small, young church could give a better explanation of why church matters than this best-selling Christian author.

I do want to respond to one point in Miller’s followup post.

Your church likely looks nothing like the church in the book of Acts, which, was not much of a prescription on how to do church anyway…

Unless you are Shane Claiborne, your church probably doesn’t look anything like the church in the book of Acts, so let’s not get self righteous.

Yes, the irony meter is spiking in that last sentence. And yes, a better conclusion than Miller’s would be “Well, I’ll saddle up with the imperfect church that God provides and try to help make it better.” But the more I thought about this critique, the less sense it made.

Certainly our churches are flawed. We have many blind spots. We can always do more to care for each other, to teach the Bible more powerfully, to serve the poor in our city, to share the Gospel more consistently. But actually, the church I serve looks a good bit like the church(es) in Acts. And I bet yours does too.

  • We devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, and to prayer, like in Acts 2:42.
  • We share with each other sacrificially when one is in need, like in Acts 2:45 and 4:34-35.
  • We gather on the Lord’s day to worship, like in Acts 20:7.
  • We receive the preached Word with joy, like in Acts 8:8 and 13:48.
  • We take up offerings to help the poor and do other good works, like in Acts 11:27-30.
  • We pray for boldness in sharing the Word, and for God to move in power, like in Acts 4:29-31.
  • We ask God to work miracles for the sick, like in Acts 3:1-7 and about a hundred other places.
  • We work to train and recognize godly leaders, like the deacons in Acts 6:1-6 and elders in Acts 14:23 (and elsewhere).
  • We bring these leaders together to make biblically-informed, Spirit-guided decisions on doctrinal and practical matters, like in Acts 15.

We need to grow in all of these. And I would love to see some things I don’t see. I would love to see God adding to our number daily those who are being saved, like in Acts 2:47. I would love to see undeniable miracles pointing to the power of God, like we see throughout the book. I would love for us to pray more faithfully and more boldly. In short, I would love to see revival in my city, as we see it in several cities in the book of Acts. But revival, miracles, conversions– these are God’s work. Faithfulness is our job; fruit is his.

Church-bashing is a popular sport right now, and you can always find the ammo. Many of the critiques are true. But there are many imperfect-but-healthy churches filled with many imperfect-but-growing Christians seeking to be faithful and obedient. Being part of one of these churches, appreciating the good and trying to help correct the flaws, is one of the best things you can do for your own spiritual growth. And we need all the help we can get.

500

This is my 500th post at Wiser Time.

I’m a little proud and a little embarrassed. Proud because to have written something and said “Here, I made this” 500 times is hard and good. Embarrassed because, well, it’s taken over 5 years, and there have been lots of dry spells.

If there’s anyone who was reading years ago and still is, you’ve noticed that I tend to write regularly for a while, then go dark, then start up again. That’s because I get busy/lazy, then decide to get serious about writing, then fizzle out. I don’t want it to always be like this. But a friend once told me “Blessed is the man who never stops starting family devotions,” and I think the same holds for writing.

I started this blog for 2 main reasons. First, I was running a bookstore, and I realized that if I reviewed books I could 1) sell books and 2) get free books. I’m just being honest. Second, I’ve always loved to write, and blogging was the thing back then. I guess it still is for some real writers, so I hang in there. Even without the free books.

In the early days I was honest-to-goodness trying to be a big deal, A-list Christian blogger. (Spoiler alert: nothing close.) Back then I wanted to be a big deal in lots of ways. I don’t anymore, at least not on my better days. But I do love to write, and I do love the things I write about, and I love to have created something. So I hang in there, and we’ll see if anything bigger ever comes.

Here are some of my favorite posts and stories.

***

The best kind of heartache” is, I think, my favorite thing I’ve ever written. That day we had toured the hospital where Eliza would be born. It was fine, but to us it was foreign, and that was a little scary. Then the doctor told us she thought it wouldn’t be long, and it hit me that this was all actually going to happen. Another kid, another million ways to have our hearts ripped out of our chests. I went back to the office and wrote this as sort of external processing, which is not normally my scene. Having a family is the hardest and best thing that has ever happened to me.

I still laugh out loud when I read “You don’t know what it’s like out here.” Because I’m the kind of guy who laughs at my own jokes, sometimes when no one else does. (Also, I really miss going out for beers with Tyler on Tuesdays when he finished RUF.)

One day, just before we moved to Prague, I started getting emails that people were commenting on “Coexist?“, a post from several months before. Like, lots of emails. It turned out I had been linked by one of my favorite political writers on my favorite political blog. I had 30,000 visitors that day, and was called lots of fun names. I later swapped several emails with the big-deal guy when he was visiting Prague. He remembered me. So I got that goin’ for me.

I Will This Day Most Joyfully Die,” a post about Jan Hus, means that I am officially an award-winning writer. I have the Charles Spurgeon caricature poster to prove it.

And another one about these “feelings” things I sometimes have: “Music = home.

***

Thanks for reading. Seriously.

Memo to Christian writers

We don’t need to write the same “good works can’t save you” article every time a famous person dies.

Not everybody who dies is a Christian. We get it. It doesn’t mean their accomplishments on earth aren’t significant or praiseworthy.

Are the Young Reformed jerks? A response from the other side.

James-Michael replies to my last post on his blog. Posted here as well. With a graphic that’s funny, and apparently even funnier if you’ve seen Anchorman. (I don’t think JMS’s putting Driscoll in pink was an accident.)

***Reformed-Team-Assemmmmmbbblllle

In the first part of this discussion, my good friend and Reformed Pastor, Jake Hunt, stated two primary points (which he clarified in the comments section as well):

Two points I’m trying to make here are 1) This [i.e. “jerkishness” is more a characteristic of the blogosphere than it is of the Reformed world and 2) In some cases, the leaders of the non- or anti-Reformed crowd are guilty of the same kind of inflammatory language they decry from no-name commenters on the other side.

I want to begin by saying that I appreciate Jake’s response and I always enjoy our back-and-forths precisely because he is articulate and well-informed and often pushes me to think more clearly and carefully on whatever it is we are discussing. This recent response is no exception.

Firstly, Jake, I agree that not all YRR folks are jerks (YRR is the abbreviation I’m using for the Young Restless Reformed crowd in general; particularly those who most strongly resonate with the works and teachings of John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, Al Mohler and others affiliated with the Gospel Coalition, etc.). In fact, I would argue that MOST of them are not. Most are God-loving brothers and sisters in Christ who I have great respect and affinity for.

However, when talking about any theological or social movement, it is unavoidable that there will be generalizations that do not hold true all the time. And it is such a generalization that is the main point in this discussion.

My thesis: As a whole, the YRR crowd has become known for being overly acerbic, critical and divisive in their approach towards those outside of Reformed theological circles.

The fact that we are having this discussion in the first place is exhibit A. Whether it’s warranted or not, what most of us who are not part of the YRR crowd feel is that the YRR crowd defines itself in relationship to other Christians primarily in terms of their differences. The recent “Bellgate” episode was merely the most high-profile example of such a reaction.

Of course the anonymity of the blogosphere only encourages keyboard heresy-hunting in its most rabid (and unchristian) forms…on all sides. I readily admit that and have always said it to be the case. The YRR crowd does not have a monopoly on mean-spirited and snarky critics of those with opposing views (I will address this second point of yours in my next post).

However, the YRR movement has characterized itself as a resurgence of a specific Christian theological tradition–namely, Reformed Complementarianism. This isn’t an outside mischaracterization, this is how some of its most well-known proponents frame the discussion, such as in this video discussion between Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung and Ligon Duncan:

 

DeYoung, Duncan, Mohler: What’s New About the New Calvinism from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

 

So while in the eyes of many YRR proponents it’s all about defending the Gospel, lifting up God’s sovereignty, contending for the faith once and for all entrusted to the saints, etc., to those of us who do not agree with, say the Synod of Dort or the Westminster Confession, or the various Baptist Confessions that the YRR crowd see as definitive for all good theology, it seems as if we are automatically deemed second-class Christians–at least in the area of theology and Biblical fidelity.

Of course not all Reformed thinkers reflect this, but it is the perceived view of the movement as a whole…to the point where even John Piper acknowledged its validity as a danger that the movement must face:

Hanging on with the danger I am speaking of is pride—a certain species of pride. There are many species of pride, and this is just one of them. You can call it intellectualism. There is also emotionalism, but that isn’t the danger we are talking about right now. Intellectualism is a species of pride, because we begin to prize our abilities to interpret the Bible over the God of the Bible or the Bible itself.

When I asked Rick Warren, “What is your doctrine of the Bible?” He said, “Inerrant and authoritative. But I don’t mean all my interpretations of it are inerrant and authoritative.” And that is of course right. We should talk that way.

So that would be my flag, the danger of intellectualism. And maybe the danger of certain aspects of it becoming so argumentative or defensive that it becomes unnecessarily narrow. That is funny for me to say because I think I am a really narrow guy, and a lot of other people think so too. [emphasis mine]

Given that Piper himself recognizes this tendency, even in his own approach, and recognizes the danger inherent in it, I find it puzzling that he would not go out of his way–and encourage his fellow YRRs to do the same–to counteract this in his public teaching, speaking, blogging and yes, Tweeting.

So while I READILY acknowledge that all YRR adherents are not jerks, I don’t see how you could say that this tendency toward theological narrowness and exclusion of non-reformed views does not at least characterize the movement as a whole, even if those of you on the inside do not feel that it should. Whether deserved or not, the perception among those who are not YRR insiders is that it does. So the onus is on the YRR spokespersons to shepherd their flocks (both in the pews and online) in such a way that they make it clear that this is not what they are about.

I also don’t think it can be entirely blamed on the internet/blogging community (though they have made it much more prevalent than in prior times through the fact that ANYONE can say ANYTHING online and it can be found with the click of a button thanks to Google!). I say this primarily because many of the influencers within the YRR community were drawing such boundaries through books, conferences and national teaching ministries before the internet came on the scene. John Piper, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur have been equating doctrinal orthodoxy with Reformed theology in their writings and speaking engagements for years.

I remember when I was a student up at Gordon-Conwell in Massachusetts the whole Openness Theology debate had just started gaining steam. As I learned about it and listened to its proponents (Boyd, Sanders, etc.) and its critics (Wells, Ware, etc.) I always found myself having to clarify my views to my peers, many of whom were convinced that Openness Theologians were heretics and should be driven out of Evangelicalism entirely. That response almost never came from non-Reformed students or teachers (though I believe Tom Oden has spoken pretty harshly against it in the past…which is surprising to me honestly). The response from most Arminians, for instance, was often along the lines of “well, I don’t agree with their conclusions and I think they misinterpret Scripture in a number of places; but they are asking valuable questions and they do seek to be faithful to the text of Scripture, so I appreciate that about their approach.” This is the approach that I longed to hear from my Reformed professors and colleagues, many of whom I greatly respected. But if there were such sentiments on any of their behalf it was drowned out by the loud cries of denunciation and warning of “false teachers.”

This was my experience at a seminary where Reformed scholars were in the majority within the theological and Biblical studies departments, but where there was open admiration and mutual respect between them and their non-Reformed colleagues. I can only guess how vehemently it was denounced at purely Reformed schools. Theological lines in the sand seemed to be the norm among many of my YRR classmates.

[Here's an anecdote to illustrate my experience. It was my first year at GCTS and I was in the dining hall sitting with some of the guys on my hall. A 3rd year student who was friends with my roommate came and sat down and we were all talking about various seminary-nerd things. At one point in the conversation it came out that I was not Reformed. The 3rd year student looked at me and said somewhat jokingly/mockingly "So you're an Arminian, huh? How in the world did you come to believe such Godless heretical nonsense as that??"  I smiled and replied "I dunno...I guess from reading Scripture in context." It was as close to a "How ya like them apples?!" Good Will Hunting moment as one can have in the world of Bible geekery, I guess. We laughed about it and they never gave me crap for not being Reformed after that; but there was always an undercurrent of "Oh...he's one of them..." whenever I discussed theology with my Calvinist friends and classmates. And that was at an inter-denominational seminary no less.]

So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the YRR movement was birthed from a discontent with the larger Evangelical community’s supposed lack of concern for doctrine on the part of many young Christians in the Reformed tradition (as DeYoung and Mohler admit in the video above). This discontentment has been expressed in ways that, to those of us outside the fold, appear smug and/or prideful (again, note Mohler’s incredibly uninformed or wildly naive “Where else can they go??” comment in the above video!).

Thus the YRR crowd in general bears a greater burden in showing the non-YRR Christian world that they are not in fact overly-critical, unnecessarily divisive and tend toward jerkishness at times.

Is that fair? Probably not.

But it’s a reality that we all inherit the reputation of those with whom we associate, regardless of that reputation’s actual merit. For instance, the reputation Methodists have among the wider Evangelical world is that we are not concerned with theology, particularly orthodox theology! I recognize this and admit it. But rather than saying it is undeserved or not true, I do what I can to write, teach, speak on and link to the best theological minds within the UM tradition and hopefully help bring about a change in that reputation through demonstrating its opposite.

This is something that I see few YRR proponents seeking to do when it comes to the reputation they have among those of us outside their ranks (however, there are a number who do…and whom I greatly admire because of it! Though I have YET to see a similar list of acknowledgement from any YRR thinkers, teachers, or bloggers. But I’d LOVE to be proved wrong on that one!). That’s why I appreciate this discussion with you, Jake. It gives us a chance to hash things out with cards on the table for all to see and no need to worry about hurting each others’ feelings or being divisive. I think that’s what all good rigorous theological discussion SHOULD do…and I’d love it if more such discussions could take place among YRR and non-YRR authors, preachers and scholars on a regular basis.

I will address your second point in a subsequent post, because I want to discuss the specifics of theological criticism and how it can and should be done without being mean-spirited, prideful or divisive (and how many on BOTH sides have failed miserably at this!), but for now I wanted to respond mainly to your first point.

I sympathize with YRR proponents who do not feel that their theological circles are deserving of the reputation of being “jerks”…I don’t feel that Methodists/Wesleyans are deserving of the reputation of being experience-based rather than Biblically-based…just as I don’t feel that Emergents are entirely deserving of the hipster-granola-cynical-relativistic reputation they have among their critics. But I see where all these stereotypes come from and almost all stereotypes exist because they reflect a significant segment of the group to which they are being applied.

Would you agree with this?

Blessings from this side of the Body,

JM

ps: Being a huge Anchorman fan, I had fun making the image above to express the topic being discussed…namely whether or not the YRR leaders are ready at the drop of a hat to fight over their Reformed tradition (as symbolized by the Wall of the Reformation in the foreground). It’s supposed to be light-hearted and I welcome any such good natured parodies in response. Hopefully if any of the guys above see this image, they will be able to chuckle at it rather than be offended!

Are the Young/Restless/Reformed crowd jerks?

Or, to put a finer point on it, are we jerks more often than other guys are jerks?

The below started as a personal email to my friend James-Michael Smith, a college buddy whom I respect a great deal and with whom I often disagree on theological matters. JMS and I believe in a true “generous orthodoxy”: one in which we can both say “I think you’re wrong on this, and it matters,” and still be friends at the end of the day. At any rate, JMS asked if he could publish my email, then respond on his blog. I hope this can be helpful, if only as a demonstration of constructive theological discussion on the internet.

My words below are addressed to JMS, and can also be found at his blog. I’ll post his response here as well. Also, since I never get to write papers anymore I had some fun with this.

***

Historical Prologue

Much of the criticism of Rob Bell’s new book came from people in the Reformed camp. Most notably:

  • Justin Taylor quoted the publisher’s blurb and Bell’s video, calling the denial of hell “false doctrine.”
  • John Piper linked to Taylor’s post on Twitter, commenting “Farewell Rob Bell.”
  • Kevin DeYoung posted a long, detailed review of the book.

But the big story was more about the blogosphere’s reaction to the book than the book itself. Many criticized Taylor and others for commenting before the book was released. Once reviews came out, they were criticized for their alleged closed-mindedness. There was a common refrain: the young Calvinists are self-appointed doctrine police, quick to jump on anything they disagree with and pronounce it heresy. This post, which started as an email from me to James-Michael, is occasioned not by Bell’s book per se, but by this reaction to the Reformed crowd as a whole.

Thesis
It has become conventional wisdom that “The Young/Restless/Reformed are jerks.” Like many stereotypes, this one is sometimes true. However, I suggest that many people outside the Reformed scene assume it when they read Reformed writers, although the evidence does not always support that conclusion, and in fact sometimes goes the other way.

Argument 1: Taylor et al were not being jerks toward Rob Bell.
Your chief angle on the Bell controversy has been the alleged eagerness of the YRR to pounce on anybody offering a different perspective. You’ve referred to JT’s post consistently as an example. Having read it several times, I just don’t see the meanness. I definitely see seriousness. If you wanted him to say “Bell says x, and that’s cool, whatevs,” he certainly wasn’t going to do that. But he doesn’t take potshots, he doesn’t use the word “heresy” (and neither did DeYoung, although you keep using it in your comments), and he doesn’t say “see, the Emergent guys are all pansies” or anything like that. He says 1) false doctrine is bad, 2) it’s better for guys to be honest about it, and 3) it sure looks like Rob Bell is embracing universalism. I know the “he hadn’t even read the book” angle, but he specifically says “if the publisher’s description is right,” then goes to the video of Bell talking, which Bell and his publisher definitely wanted people to watch and talk about.

On to Kevin DeYoung. His review is long, thorough, and very critical. He specifically describes the book as “heterodox.” Now, nobody uses that word by accident. It means you probably initially wanted to say “heresy,” but decided to be really careful. He uses the word “heresy” exactly once in the whole review, referring to universalism and “every other heresy.” He doesn’t make fun of Bell for being cool or edgy or Emergent; he deals with the merits of the book.

The bigger question is whether we should be worked up over this at all. Now, when Piper invited Rick Warren to speak at a conference, I don’t think that was worth getting worked up over. I think this is absolutely worth getting worked up over. The fact that others have embraced universalism, or inclusivism, does not make Bell’s view a legitimate strand of Christian orthodoxy. (That’s just the Bauer hypothesis; that the existence of non-orthodox thought means there’s no such thing as orthodoxy.) Universalism and inclusivism are bad doctrine, and they need to be called out for what they are. The fact that you’re willing to strongly critique dispensationalism (on which I agree with you), but chafe at these guys critiquing universalism, is strange to me.

Argument 2: Many non- or anti-Reformed writers can be jerks toward us.
You often link to Ben Witherington and Greg Boyd, two scholars you admire. I’ve read and used some of Witherington’s stuff, and he is indeed a good scholar. He’s also a jerk sometimes, particularly toward the Reformed. You may recall his spreading rumors about Grudem and the ESV a few years ago (for which he apologized, to his credit). He referred to Schreiner’s NT theology as a blot on God’s moral character. He spoke at RTS my first year, and I was excited that we’d brought in a respected voice from outside our tradition. Then he made biting, petty critiques of something he didn’t like, and my respect fell sharply.

Just last week, Witherington referred to Piper and Driscoll as representatives of “the hyper-Calvinist wing of the evangelical world“. Now this is a word with a definition. Hyper-Calvinism teaches that it’s improper to exhort nonbelievers to faith in Christ. It essentially says no evangelism, no missions. It’s roundly rejected by Calvinists, and specifically by John Piper. Witherington’s referring to Piper, Driscoll, and me as hyper-Calvinists either means 1) he doesn’t know what the word means or 2) he’s deliberately using it as a pejorative. Either one would be embarrassing, but the man’s a capable scholar and I just doubt that it’s #1.

The same could be said for Boyd, who, in an article you linked, equated Calvinism with determinism. Does he not know enough theology or philosophy to know the difference, even if he rejects them both? Of course he does. But he knows there’s rhetorical punch in equating the two. If John Piper wrote an article equating open theism and Arminianism, you would rightly be up in arms.

There are more examples. Roger Olson, who’s so disappointed that American evangelicals fuss over theology, wrote that he can’t tell the God of Calvinism apart from the devil. N. T. Wright can’t fathom how anybody might understand his work and just disagree, so whenever someone critiques him he just says they haven’t understood him. (D. A. Carson couldn’t understand you?) He has no problem with straw-man critiques either. I’m not the first person to point this out.

My point isn’t that these guys are bad or always wrong—they’re not—but that Reformed writers by no means have a monopoly on uncharitable language.

Conclusion
Reformed guys have the reputation of “attacking” those who differ from us. We certainly deserve it at times. But not only is the problem not limited to us, I’m not even sure it’s more true of us than it is any other crowd. Roger Olson says our God looks like the devil. Steve Chalke, quoted by Brian McLaren and many others, calls my view of the gospel “divine child abuse.” Rob Bell says my God isn’t good and can’t be trusted. These aren’t C- and D-level bloggers or commenters like me; these are respected guys publishing books.

So I suggest that you and others tend to jump on YRR guys for being mean, or uncharitable, or overly critical, while ignoring or downplaying the same tendency among guys that you like. Submitted for your consideration.

Blog comment of the week

JT links to a WSJ article and asks “Why are we letting our daughters dress like prostitutes?”

A commenter points out that modesty and propriety are relative concepts (which is true to some extent, but…), and is answered by a mom:

[A]ny guy that tries to argue with any of my daughters that the way they dress is a “cultural construct” and simply a matter of social relativity is going to find his own body construct relatively-altered, courtesy of their Daddy.

Thoughts on the Rob Bell fracas

Rob Bell is a popular pastor, speaker and author. His latest book, out in mid-March, is Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The publisher’s description strongly implies that Bell denies the traditional Christian doctrine of eternal punishment:

Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

And in a video publicizing the book, Bell—if words mean anything—rejects the idea that God will punish people forever, or that Jesus rescues us from God’s wrath.

When Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung wrote articles responding to this, saying it is very bad news indeed, the Internet blew up. (If you’re going to read one thing on this, DeYoung’s article should be it. Skip mine if necessary.)

A few of my thoughts:

Yawn. I read Velvet Elvis around 2007, about a year after it came out. And if you had asked me, “Does this author believe in hell?” I would have said “I highly doubt it.” This is not surprising if you’re familiar with Bell’s work. If you’re not willing to go to bat for the Trinity or the Virgin Birth, you’ll throw hell under the bus in a second. (I’ll try and find some more metaphors to throw in that last sentence.)

No need to wait. People have complained that we should wait until the book comes out before responding. Nonsense. He’s said things already. The video is him speaking. There’s already plenty to respond to. If his publisher doesn’t understand what the book means, or if he’s saying the opposite thing in the book from what he’s saying in the video, that will be very strange, and we can deal with it when the book comes out.

This isn’t hard. There are plenty of things in the Bible that are important, but aren’t all that clear. Hell is not one of those things. A cursory reading of the four Gospels will tell you Jesus believed in it and thought it would last forever. Revelation makes it even clearer (and for Revelation, that’s really saying something). Hell is horrific, and difficult to get our minds around. The questions it raises are hard. But it’s not hard to see that the Bible teaches it’s real.

Hang it up. If you are a pastor, and you’re not willing to tell people what the Bible says, you should walk away. We don’t get to make up our own God; we have to deal with the one who’s there. We pastors are in the business of telling people what is true. If you don’t have the stones to do that, you should quit. Feeding people cotton candy only makes the job harder for the rest of us.

Pat Robertson is an idiot on many levels.

But Peter Wehner explains the worst aspect of his most recent I-know-the-mind-of-God diatribe:

Pat Robertson’s argument is as neat and clean as a mathematical equation: God grants blessings and curses on nations and people based on their allegiance and obedience to Him. If things are going well, you’re living right; if things are going badly, you’re living wrong. And it is Robertson himself who can divine the hierarchy of sins that most trouble God.

But this view simply does not correspond with any serious understanding of Christianity.

Read the whole thing.

Family advice for the holidays

Nobody loves you, or drives you crazy, quite like your family. If you’ll see them in the next couple of weeks, check out some Gospel perspective from Russell Moore.

Hip social action and apologizing for Christians isn’t the Gospel.

Kevin DeYoung (coauthor of Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church, both highly recommended) has a great post today: The Gospel Old and New. He outlines the typical presentation of what he calls the New Gospel (my summary):

  1. Start with an apology for how terrible all [other] Christians are.
  2. Appeal to “God as love,” with no reference to his wrath.
  3. Give an invitation to “join God’s mission,” defined as working for peace and justice on earth.
  4. Close with a “studied ambivalence” on eternity: Is there a hell? Who am I to say? But let’s work for the here and now.

His conclusion:

This is no small issue. And it is not just a matter of emphasis. The New Gospel will not sustain the church. It cannot change the heart. And it does not save.

Read the whole thing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,090 other followers